ASHEBORO, N.C. (BP)–The soft melodies of Christian music sung in Spanish and the smell of Southern barbecue drifted through the air at South Asheboro Middle School on June 10, kicking off a block party as part of Crossover Triad preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
The block party and Christian sports clinic at nearby Asheboro High School were events for the community aimed at sharing the Gospel while providing fun activities.
Despite the heat of a balmy sun-soaked day, families came to fellowship and hear about Christ’s love through face painting, crafts, a cake walk and games.
Shelby Lloyd, an eighth-grade student at Zebulon Middle School, volunteered for the block party after her youth pastor at Central Baptist Church in North Raleigh encouraged the middle school youth group to participate. Clad in her neon green “Get Vertical” ministry T-shirt, Lloyd aided the children in a game involving a water ball.
“I have been talking to people during the games, the cake walk, and while handing out popcorn,” she said. “I want more people in the community to get to know Christ and learn something new about God that they didn’t know before.”
Jeni Martin, a missions leader at First Baptist Church in Asheboro, coordinated the day’s events for the purpose of presenting the Gospel and building relationships.
“We want to bash the stereotypes of Christians,” Martin said. “Our goal is to share our faith and rub elbows with the community.”
Drawing from First Baptist’s growing Hispanic ministry, Martin invited Tino Yanez, pastor of La Igesia Bautisa de Elshaddai, to speak about a well-known salvation verse, John 3:16, and the praise band from his church led in worship.
“It is positive for kids to see something different and experience love and generosity that the day will bring,” Jose Palma, the band’s drummer, said.
Yanez and his church used the block party as an outreach ministry.
“Our church works in different ways to provide services to the community,” he said. “We often go to people’s homes and invite them to church.”
As part of the activities, health professionals checked blood pressure and provided nutritional information. Face painting for all ages came in the forms of heart, stars, crosses, butterflies and fish.
A cake walk gave children a chance to win homemade sweets, and a prayer team was on hand to take prayer requests throughout the afternoon. The most popular attractions were the inflatable games set up throughout the playground.
Bounding out of the inflatable maze was Cheyeanne Jones, a blue-eyed 5-year-old with curly blond hair.
“I like the games and eating barbecue,” Jones said. “Jesus is in our hearts and He died for our sins and went to heaven for us, and when we do something ugly, we have to sit in time-out.”
Sam Hicks, pastor of West Asheboro Baptist Church, estimated 600 people attended the block party.
“We went into planning for the block party with no expectations, but we knew we needed to plan for at least 700 people,” he said. “I am so happy with the amount of people within the church who have been serving and helping out today.”
Hicks used his marketing experience to advertise for the block party by posting fliers at schools and placing an advertisement in the local newspaper.
“I have [had] meaningful conversations today and invited people to church,” he said. “I want to build relationships and have people see church people as normal.”
Hicks plans to stay involved in the community by sponsoring other events like Relay for Life and March of Dimes.
Later in the afternoon, a puppet show presented by Crossroads Baptist Church changed lyrics to add a Christian twist to popular songs by mainstream artists.
Durham resident Aileen Izawa and her sister, Joyce Okada from Niles Township, Mich., taught a line dancing lesson to the tune of “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.
“I wanted to bring wholesome dancing to the block party,” Izawa, dressed in a sparkly red vest with matching black pants with red stripes, said. “Line dancing is for all ages and genders and helps with memory, balance and poise.”
The day brought entertainment for both children and adults with an emphasis on sharing the Gospel.
“Christian life is fun, not constricted,” Izawa said with a wide smile.
Gretchen Ross, a student at Campbell University in North Carolina, is part of the Collegiate Journalism Conference sponsored by Baptist Press and associated with an internship through Campbell University.